You know we’ve got lofty ambitions with the SAFE Network — a secure, autonomous network that puts privacy at the heart of its users. And if you are following the weekly updates over on the forum, you’ll see we’re steaming towards Beta at pace. But how are we designing this new Internet? You can see the Front End Roadmap has four concepts, or milestones if you will: Perpetual Web, Private Communications, Take Control of Your Data and the New Digital Economy.
Let’s start with the first of those
What is the Perpetual Web?
If you’ve seen the SAFE Network Fundamentals, the concept might be familiar from #8;
All public/published data on the Network will be immutable and available on the Network in perpetuity. In exactly the same way as the Internet Archive stores versions of websites that were published with mistakes, it will be impossible to delete any data from the Network after it has been uploaded. That does not mean that you won’t be able to change data — you will be able to make append-only changes, i.e. historic, earlier versions of data will always remain stored on the Network (whether they are accessible or not).
And check out this rather vintage video of ours from 2007 (😱) which shows just how long we’ve been focusing on the Perpetual Web.
So why has this notion of perpetuity been our target for so long?
You might have heard our Front End team explain storing public data forever on the SAFE Network as “the Internet Archive on Steroids, baked into the web by default”. If you’ve not heard of the Internet Archive, it’s a non-profit organisation that is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. They’re doing important work because the Web today is actually quite a fragile place. Much of the early web has now been lost. Even the Web’s very first page is now only accessible via a copy. And this is a problem that could get much worse. Our most valued memories — in the shape of photos and videos — are increasingly stored on centralised systems like Facebook which could be lost when (not if) Facebook closes its doors.
It happened with Myspace. It’ll happen again.
Initiatives like the Internet Archive are valiantly trying to protect our data. But they are facing a challenge on an unprecedented scale. Every single day, millions of photos, videos and stories are being added to the web. It’s actually more than millions. Data from 2018 estimated that its about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each and every single day. How can we possibly capture and store such vast amounts of information in such a dynamic environment?
This is where we step in. The SAFE Network makes public data perpetual — which means that you will no longer have to manually archive each page. The result? You can keep your memories forever. And this comes with all the other benefits of the SAFE Network: it’s not run by a single organisation, it’s available cross-borders, decentralised and can’t be censored…the list is endless.
How the Perpetual Web benefits us all
So apart from posterity, why is the Perpetual Web so important?
Public data that is always accessible and permanent helps to defeat censorship. If we want to avoid a selective view of the world, people need to be able to access a log of all stories that are written. It’s always been a truism that history is always written by the winners. From the early advent of the Web, we’ve had the potential to ensure that governments and institutions don’t simply cherry-pick the stories that they want to publicise. The Perpetual Web prevents the rewriting of history, which can have catastrophic effects, even worse than some of the human rights horrors we’re witnessing in some countries now. We want an authentic Network. One of honesty that doesn’t hide or blinker the truth.
We think you do too…
Widespread collaboration reaps rewards
Open source is in our DNA. And this permissionless approach to collaboration extends way past simply software development. The Open Science movement is a call to arms to make scientific research (like publications, data, physical samples and software) accessible to all levels of an inquiring society. Inclusive of whether you are a curious amateur or a professional researcher.
Academic journals have their origins in the 17th century where a societal demand to access to scientific knowledge prompted groups of scientists to share resources. In the same way today, surely anyone around the world should have the opportunity to tackle research questions? Assuming that innovation is created solely by specialist credentialed academics within select institutions discounts thousands, perhaps millions around the globe. Serendipity provides unexpected solutions. The more people are involved, the greater the chances of a random connection providing a new approach.
The Promise of the Perpetual Web
And for those who think a Perpetual Web with everlasting data is perhaps slightly unpalatable, think about this. Do you believe as a society we should strive to restrict or share information? And do you believe that humanity needs to collaborate to progress and thrive? There are many people on this planet and the numbers will only rise. Now is the time to build the infrastructure that will harness the progress that we all need to make — together — for the benefit of us all.
As we build out the Perpetual Web, we guarantee that every design decision we will ever make in our work will be centred wholly on providing a free and open Internet for all. We’ll continue telling stories about why we need such systems, and more excitingly show you what this looks like.
Of course, the story is different when it comes to personal and private data. But for published (public) data the argument is clear. Whilst we’ve not reached the Perpetual Web yet, we soon will. And we hope you agree: that day can’t come soon enough.